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April 14, 1978

Hazards of Being Single

JAMA. 1978;239(15):1533. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280420069023

James J. Lynch, professor of psychology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, proposes that lack of human companionship is one of the leading causes of premature death in America. In The Broken Heart (New York, Basic Books, 1977), he makes a cogent case that death rates are higher in single, widowed, separated, or divorced subjects than in married persons. If that is so, then Dr Lynch may have made the strongest case yet for that frail social institution of marriage.

One of the more striking outcomes of Lynch's research is that not just cardiovascular disease but all other major causes of death take a higher toll in unmarried than in married persons. Why that should be is by no means obvious; perhaps the very process of selection removes the sick from the marriageable pool, as they are less likely to find a partner. However, selection alone is unlikely